381 Lochaline to the Wishing Stone

I’m determined to catch the one (and only) bus today, even if it means missing breakfast and setting off in the dark. But I underestimate the time it takes to drive to Drimnin, along a twisting single-track road.

Oh, no! I meet the one-and-only bus coming towards me, and must pull into a passing place to let it go by.

Back at the hotel they give me coffee and toast, while I decide what to do. I could use my bike, but would face a nasty headwind coming back. So, I decide to cut my planned distance in half, and do a there-and-back walk.

It’s 10am before I set off, following a back road through Lochaline and passing above the ferry terminal. I look down at the queuing cars and vans. Seems a popular and busy route over to Mull.

Lochaline has one little village shop, and a community filling station. Good idea. Otherwise it is about 20 miles to the next petrol pump.

Oh, here’s a bus stop, but that’s no use to me now. The one-and-only bus of the day has gone. I turn left and head down the road towards Drimnin.

The sun is shining – pale and cool. This is a pleasant road, running half a mile inland, but with good views over the Sound of Mull.

There’s a cemetery on the hill above me. The memorial stones look old. I make a mental note to visit it on my return.

Further along are a series of red and white cones, and a man in a yellow jacket is standing beside them, apparently ready to direct traffic. Why? Ah, there is tree-felling ahead.

I’m sharing the hotel with a couple of contract workers, who are working locally as lumberjacks. We chatted last night in the pub, and they explained they were felling trees to create a road, ironically, to allow the tree-felling machines to get into the forest. “We humans are still needed for some jobs,” they told me. Laughing.

Is this where the lumberjacks are working? I will ask them tonight.

Look at that view! (Although I drove down this road earlier, I couldn’t see the view because it was too dark.) Unfortunately, there is a misty haze over the Isle of Mull, and my photographs don’t do it justice.

I walk through an avenue of trees. I’m actually on the edge of a large forest – Fiunary Forest, which I would love to explore sometime.

Further along, I pass a row of new-looking bungalows. Are they holiday homes or real homes? I do hope they are genuine homes for local people. What a wonderful place to live.

Onwards, with fields on my left, trees on my right, and an ever-present view of a rather misty Mull.

I come to a small area of woodland on my left, with a parking area, a little shed, and a rustic sign, informing me this is Achnaha Community Woodland.

It seems strange to have an area of community woodland so close to an enormous forest, but I guess the forest is used for serious commercial purposes, while the woodland is used for fun and education.

In fact, the ‘shed’ turns out to be a tiny little hut – barely big enough to stand up in – but is an example of how you can build local homes using local timber. [I took the photo below on my return journey.]

Oh, this road is really very pretty. I’m leaving the main bulk of the forest behind, and now the landscape opens up, with a mix of farmland and trees.

I cross over the Savary River. Funny how every little river and stream gets a signpost in Scotland.

The back of the signs are labelled with an Ordnance Survey grid reference. Such a good idea too.

Just beyond the bridge is a parking area, and the start of walk that leads right up the Savary Glen, meanders through the Fiunary Forest, and emerges eventually at Kinlochteagus (or Kinlochteacuis or Ceann Loch Tiacais – there seem to be numerous alternative spellings!). Andy Phillips walked up here on his coastal walk, bypassing Drimnin altogether, as did Martyn West.

A sign on the gate informs me “The Beasts are Back”. Oh, highland cows. I can’t see any, but I can’t resist the photo opportunity. Time for a self-portrait.

Andy very helpfully sent me details of the route through the forest, but I’ve decided to press on to the end of the peninsular. I’m hoping I can find a way round via the coast, following in the steps of Alan Palin and Quintin Lake. (In fact, Quintin passed through here a few weeks ago. The landlady at the Lochaline Hotel remembers him.)

So, onwards. I’m staying on the road.

Ahead is Fiunary Farm, and my road is about to descend to sea level. I’m looking forward to walking close to the shore.

There is an interesting outcrop of rocks here, and a tidal island with the remains of a ruined cottage. (The tidal island is called Eilean na Beitheiche, according to my map, but doubtless it has numerous other names too!)

I’m feeling fatigued. It’s psychological, rather than physical. The walking has been really easy, but I had an early start this morning, and I’m very aware I must walk all the way back to Lochaline.

Nearly there. My chosen end-point for the day is just around the next headland.

The clouds are gathering over Mull. Funny how, despite the watery sunshine on this side of the Sound, it has remained misty and murky over there. I can’t stop taking photographs.

I pass a pretty little waterfall. So many lovely things to see while walking in Scotland. In England, people would make a big fuss of such a feature. It would probably be cordoned off with signs warning of danger. But here in Scotland… nothing marks the spot. It doesn’t even have a name on my map.

The road curves round the headland and, finally, I spot my end-point for the day. It’s a small parking area (not marked on my OS map) for people wanting to visit the Wishing Stone.

I look around for the stone, but can’t see it, until I realise it is actually a bit further down the road.

Here it is. You can’t miss it. A big rock with a hole, the Wishing Stone lies on a historic boundary and on a coffin route. It is surrounded by old memorial cairns, which you are asked NOT to add more stones to.

Apparently, if you jump through the Wishing Stone without touching the sides, then all your wishes will come true.

I climb up and take a look. It’s not possible to get through without touching the rocks! Not unless you dare to take a flying leap, and have friends to catch you on the other side. I abandon any thought of trying it, but I pose beside the rock and snap another self-portrait.

Returning to the car park, I sit on a picnic bench and eat my lunch. It’s a great view. Very peaceful too.

My walk back to Lochaline is punctuated by frequent stops to take photographs. The weather is darkening, and the scenery is dramatic.

I even meet some of “The Beasts”. Highland cattle. Safely behind a fence.

I’m battling against the wind, and glad I didn’t try to cycle this route. The last section is uphill as the road rises before dropping down to Lochaline. I catch one last photo of the ferry scuttling across the Sound of Mull.

As I walk down into Lochaline, a man rushes out of the village store, greets me like a long-lost friend, and shouts at me. “Where were you?” I look around nervously. Is he a crazy person?

“I was waiting for you,” he says. “Don’t you remember? I’m the bus driver.”

Oh yes. The day before, on the bus, I’d told him I was going to catch this morning’s one-and-only bus from Drimnin. He’d been worried when I hadn’t turned up.

I apologise, and explain I got the timings all wrong. And I have to repeat the story again later in the evening, because everybody in the pub seems to know I didn’t turn up for the bus. (Although, to be honest, there were only four other people in the pub, and three of them worked there!)

I looked out for the lumberjacks all evening, but I never saw them again.

Miles walked today = 12 miles (but only 6 in the right direction!)
Total around coast = 3,984 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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12 Responses to 381 Lochaline to the Wishing Stone

  1. RAY PERRY says:

    I had never heard of the term ‘coffin route’ before so I looked it up and now know. When I was a child we would watch the hearse and cars drive past our house on the way to the cemetery. If the service had been at the Anglican church, the bell would toll and we reckoned that you got one bong for each year of your life.

    I’m so pleased to see you continuing your fabulous journey.

  2. lizziwake says:

    I was amused by the bus story – only in remote areas 😂

  3. jcombe says:

    I also missed the once a day bus up on the north coast because although I had got to my intended start point in time I could not find anywhere I was happy to park. By the time I had a bit further up the road, the bus came past just as I was parking! So I also had to do an “Up and Back” walk along the road,not something I enjoy. So it’s not just you!

    Though I do know what you mean when the bus driver asked where you were. It does feel news travels fast in these remote places and you quickly seen to become known to the locals. Those remote petrol stations are a god send. Last year I was staying in Durness and without that it would be a long journey around to Lochinver or Thurso to the nearest petrol station. I learnt my lesson with that when I came very close to running out of petrol in a hire care because it was a Sunday and all the petrol stations I passed were closed. I know make sure I fill up when possible so it does not get too low. I’ve also had on a few times where I’ve taken the bus in the morning and ending up walking along the road later only for the same bus driver to pass by again, recognise me and stop to check if I want a lift!

    Yes it’s true how much stunning scenery goes overlooked in Scotland, where it would became a major tourist attraction in the south!

    • jcombe says:

      Mean to add on my most recent trip to Scotland I walked one of those paths that was also an old Cofin Road. All I can say is that I’m glad I did not have to carry a coffin along it. Or indeed end up in one myself!

      • Glad I’m not the only person to miss buses, and finding somewhere safe to park on those single track roads can be a nightmare. The logistics of travelling in Scotland can certainly catch you out. I always try to remember to fill the car with petrol before I cross over Loch Linnhe on the Corran ferry. Another problem is the lack of shops. I checked into a bunk house on a Saturday evening, but couldn’t buy any food for breakfast or other meals because the local village shops shut at 5pm on Saturday and were shut all day on Sunday! Luckily I found a pub.

  4. Chris Elliott says:

    I sympathise with you having to do there and back routes, but I found that it is almost inevitable when you are self supported – even with the Beast and a bike! I did there and back walks in several places one of which was Kinlochteacuis which is just ahead of you all the way to the Strontian Hotel. Given you don’t want to camp I guess you might have to do the same in getting around Knoydart. I will be interested to discover how you tackle Knoydart and the stretch up to Glenelg. I fear you might have quite a few there and back walks ahead…..! By the way did you ever meet someone called Sally when you walked to Doirlinn which is just before Loch Teacuis?

    • I’ve just bought the OS map for Knoydart, Chris, and there don’t seem to be any roads! 😱
      No, I don’t think I met Sally, but I may have heard about her. Does she live in an isolated cottage along that track to Doirlinn? I was told (in the pub) to drop in and she would make me a cup of tea, but of course I didn’t have the nerve to do that!

      • Chris Elliott says:

        Absolutely right – she is affectionally known locally as ‘mad Sally’ due to her eccentricity. I knocked on her door as I was unsure where to go in pouring rain and she invited me in and gave me tea and biscuits. She was only in her dressing gown at 10.00 in the morning! She was a lovely lady. One day I hope to walk out to her house again and give her a bottle of wine as a present. She does Air B&B and it must be about the remotest B&B in the UK!

  5. Karen White says:

    How funny that the bus driver came running out to you like that. As someone else said, ‘only in Scotland’. Beautiful scenery as always.The Wishing Stone is interesting though I wouldn’t want to try and leap through it! I love Highland Cattle – we have a few in the New Forest and they always seem to be gentle creatures though I still treat them with respect.

  6. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today. On Friday, and only Friday there is a mid afternoon bus from Lochaline to Drimnin, I think because schools in this part of Scotland do a half day on Friday. It is the only day it shows as always stunning to Drimnin rather than being on request. However as a backup I left my folding bike at Lochaline in case I missed the bus or it didn’t come. I then drove on to Drimnin and parked by the slipway and walked back. The community woodland is lovely as well as the house you saw there is a path and further down a larger house and the path goes down to a beach where I had lunch on a bench there. When I reached Lochaline I got to the bus stop 10 mins early and waited 15 mins after it was due but it did not come. So I then had to cycle back, which was tiring. Still lovely views of Mull and very little traffic so overall a good walk.

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